So this is why they call it Candlestick Park.
The lights went out twice in the San Francisco stadium during the Monday night NFL game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and 49ers. Although immediate fears among members of the ESPN crew broadcasting the game were centered on an earthquake, the cause was far more mundane. A transformer near the stadium exploded, plunging the joint into darkness just before kickoff and again early in the second quarter.
Pacific Gas & Electric said it wasn’t sure why the transformer blew, only that Candlestick was the only customer affected. “Right now, we’re actively investigating the cause,” PG&E spokesperson John King told the San Francisco Chronicle. “It could be a number of things, from customer-owned equipment to PG&E equipment … the cause is under investigation.”
The start of the game was delayed 20 minutes; the second quarter was interrupted for 17 and the 49ers management was not happy, although the team won, 20-3.
“There are more questions than answers,” 49ers spokesperson Steve Weakland said. “We have asked PG&E to assure us and the NFL that this will not reoccur. We will continue to update you as we learn more.”
Fans amused themselves during the outages, with one scampering onto the field during the second quarter. That prompted Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to crack: “Where’s James Harrison when you need him?” (Video here.)
The lights never came back on for the Steelers, who missed the chance to take over first place in the AFC North and sieze the AFC’s No. 1 seed in the playoffs. The loss is far from a killer, but they’ll need help from others the rest of the season.
Roethlisberger, who suffered a high ankle sprain Dec. 8, started, but was clearly hurting (he said he took “two Tylenol and two Advil” rather than an injection for the pain). He completed 25 of 44 passes for 330 yards, but threw two early interceptions and another late.
“He wasn’t able to get out of the pocket like he usually does,” 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh said. “And I thought the pressure was good. We weren’t really giving him many lanes.”
It was a difficult night, but there’s little debate about whether Roethlisberger should have started. This was a big game for the Steelers and Roethlisberger gives them the best chance to win.
“It’s very frustrating to feel like you let down your team and your fans and your coaches. It’s tough,” Roethlisberger said. “I’m not going to make excuses. I played a bad football game, I turned the ball over and that one’s on me.”
Now, Roethlisberger and the Steelers have four days in which to prepare for Saturday’s game against the St. Louis Rams in Pittsburgh — and to ponder the fact that, with two losses to the Baltimore Ravens — they’re 0-3 against coaches named Harbaugh this season.